I’ve been wanting to write a tutorial about Layer Masks for a while now, but frankly, most of the time, I don’t use Layer Masks in Painter, only Photoshop. But I started playing around (which is the best way to learn Painter, by the way), and found some really neat stuff you can do with Layer Masks in Painter. So, this isn’t a tutorial about adding tattoos to your portraits (though you will learn about that!): it’s about Layer Masks in Corel Painter.
To understand Layer Masks, think of two panes of glass, one on top of the other. Let’s say the bottom pane is painted solid white. When you lay the second, clear pane on top of this, you see the white color showing through. Consider this top pane to be an empty layer. Now, let’s cover that second pane with solid black. You can no longer see what’s on the first pane (solid white). Imagine that you had a special brush that made the black paint disappear wherever you painted with it. As you paint with this magic brush, the white pane underneath is revealed. Layer Masks work the same way: they “cut holes” in the current layer, allowing what’s below to peek through.
Step One: Float The Canvas
Now let’s see how this works in Painter. First, let’s open a portrait image. This one is from a stock photographer on deviantArt named Dagwanoenyent-Stock. (Click on that link to get yourself a copy of this image to follow along.) Here’s what it looks like:
If you’re new to layers in Painter, never fear, I’ll take it slowly. They’re just different enough from Photoshop to cause some real headaches! First, make sure you can see the Layers palette. Go Windows > Show Layers. When you first open an image in Painter, it’s automatically on a layer already, called the Canvas, similar to Photoshop’s Background layer. To duplicate the Canvas, you must “float” it. (Told you it was different!) I have no idea why this, but it just is, so let’s keep going. To float the Canvas and turn it into a regular ol’ layer, go Select > All, then Select > Float. The image that was on the Canvas is now on a new layer, Layer 1 by default. The Canvas layer is still there, but it’s blank. We can ignore it from here on in. Now, when you go to the Layers menu, you’ll see that “Duplicate Layer” is no longer grayed out.
Rename Layer 1 to something, by clicking on the name. I called it “Tat coloring.”
Step Two: Duplicate the Layer
Now let’s duplicate “Tat coloring.” Go Layer > Duplicate Layer, or right click on the layer in the Layers Palette and choose Duplicate. You get a duplicate layer named Layer 1. You can leave it at that. In the Layers Palette, turn off visibility for Layer 1 by clicking on the eyeball. As you work with layers, it’s very important to keep an eye on the Layers Palette, and notice which layer is currently active. For now, click on the Tat Coloring layer to activate it. This layer is going to serve as the coloring of the tattoos (hence the name). We will change the coloring first, then, on Layer 1, we’ll add a Layer Mask, revealing tattoo-shaped holes filled with this new color. One step at a time. First, let’s modify Tat Coloring.
Step Three: Prepare the Tattoo Coloring
I’m going to change the coloration of the original image here on the Tat Coloring layer. Before you go one step further: Make sure the eyeball on Layer 1 is closed! You will be tearing your hair out in a minute otherwise. Eyeball closed? Good. With the Tat Coloring layer active (highlighted), go Effects > Tonal Control > Adjust Colors. The dialogue box that comes up acts much like the Hue/Saturation controls in Photoshop. Choose Uniform Color from the drop down, and then move the Hue slider until the preview image turns a nice healthy deep purple (or whatever color suits your tattoo needs). Notice that, in the image here, the face is coated with pancake white make-up. You’ll want to use an image with similarly pale skintones, or use light tattoo colors for dark skin.
Step Four: Create the Layer Mask
Now you can open the eyeball on Layer 1. When you do so, the middle layer (Tat Coloring) is no longer visible at all. So now we’ll create a bunch of tattoo-shapes as a mask. First, open the Papers palette: go Window > Library Palettes > Show Papers. Click on the tiny triangle in the upper right to get the drop down, and find a high-contrast paper, preferably the one I used, Mini Glyphs. Move the Contrast slider over to about 260%. You want a design that is strictly black and white with no greys. Move the size slider to taste: this controls the size of the design on your image, as you’ll see in a second. Set the Brightness at 50%.
Activate Layer 1 by clicking on it, if it’s not already active. Go Layers > Create Layer Mask, or click on the “Create Layer Mask” icon in the Layers Palette. A white icon appears next to your image icon in the Layers Palette. It’s white, meaning the Layer Mask is not masking anything yet. We need to paint on it with black to let Tat Coloring show through.
Step Five: Paint the Layer Mask
Here’s where the magic happens. Select solid black as your main color. Choose the Pastel variant called Square Hard Pastel 40. Make sure the Grain is set to around 10, Resat and Opacity at 50 or higher. Click on the layer mask icon to activate it. You’ll know it’s active when its outline gets a bit heavier. Now, begin to paint on the image itself. You’re actually painting on the layer mask. If all goes according to plan, it should look like you’re painting on the image. If the design is looking black as you paint, you have the image selected, not the layer mask. Keep painting all over the face, avoiding the eyes, mouth and hair. Cool, no?
What’s going on here?
As you were painting the layer mask, you may have noticed that the layer mask icon was updating, showing a miniature tattoo drawing happening. Want to see the actual mask? Easy. Go Window > Show Channels. Down in the Channels Palette, click on the eyeball icon for the Layer 1 layer mask. You should now see the full-size Layer Mask instead of the painting. You can actually paint right on this, with white, black or gray, to continue working the mask. It’s just easier to do it the other way, as it allows you to see what the effects are of the mask. It’s useful to see the whole thing, sometimes, to do touchup work.
The only other thing I did to this image, since it’s just a demo, was to paint the eyes a tad. I used Painter’s Dodge tool (in the toolbox in versions 10 and up, otherwise it’s in the Photo variants) to brighten the whites. Then I used the eyedropper to select some of the cat’s eye color, and tweaked the woman’s eyes with the Digital Airbrush. I hope this tutorial helped you get a handle on Layer Masks. If it didn’t, or you’re stuck somewhere, just leave a comment and I’ll try to help you out right away. Thanks for reading!
- Tutorial: An Easy Introduction to Layer Masks
- Tutorial: How to Use a Line Drawing with Corel Painter
- Tutorial: How to Use Corel Painter’s Surface Texture Tool
- Tutorial: An Easy Pet Portrait in Pastel with Corel Painter
- Tutorial: Quick and Easy Waterdrops with Corel Painter
- Tutorial: Preparing a Beach Photo for Painting in Corel Painter
- Tutorial: Use Corel Painter’s Papers for Texture